Eric Collins was up front with his players about a number of things when he arrived at D’Iberville in the spring.
He believed in the potential of the team and the realistic possibilities. He believed taking over for long-time coach Buddy Singleton didn’t have to equate to a rebuild. Perhaps most importantly, he believed in his players.
The Warriors have rewarded their new coach with a 7-3 overall record and a 5-1 mark in the ultra competitive Region 4-6A with just one week remaining until the playoffs.
After Friday night’s hard-fought 42-39 victory at Harrison Central, Collins credited his players’ buy-in to his system.
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“They didn't have to accept me. Our kids didn't have to trust me. But the kids gave me everything they had and this is the result,” Collins said. “The kids bought in and I'm grateful to them for that.”
Senior safety and Southern Miss commit Tyler Barnes actually turned it around, thanking Collins for taking in the team.
“I hope he's proud. He deserves it,” Barnes said. “He doesn't get the props but he deserves it. He took us in and I love him.”
Collins had anything but a smooth start at D’Iberville as there was some roster turnover and unrest with a deathly passionate fan base.
But winning heals all, and the Warriors have been doing plenty of winning.
The players who stuck out the transition have not only been rewarded with a successful season, but they’ve grown closer in the process.
“I think the biggest thing is Coach Collins pushes us,” Barnes said. “He has a lot of expectations for us. It’s like a family unit now. We trust one another.
“... This year has done a lot for us chemistry wise.”
Friday night the Warriors will host rival St. Martin for senior night. A win will secure the Region 4-6A title. A loss, and the Warriors will need a little help to remain atop the region. Playing the Yellow Jackets is always an interesting challenge for D’Iberville. It’s not uncommon to hear tales about the “good old days” when fans at one stadium could hear the crowd at the other. The stadiums have changed, but the rivalry certainly hasn’t.
Last year it looked like the Jackets would get their first one over on the Warriors since 2003 only to fall in the final seconds and narrowly miss the playoffs.
A postseason berth is once again on the line for St. Martin (6-5, 3-3), which also needs some help from its regional foes.
Even with the possibility of keeping their rival home from the playoffs, Barnes said Collins hasn’t played up the game. Just the opposite.
“He told us not to get caught up in the hype,” Barnes said. “Just play our type of football.”
Here's a couple Class 4A prognostications that are sure to come through...
The state's six classifications are as wide open as I can remember with no sure-fire champion just waiting to be anointed.
Five Coast schools qualified for the playoffs. Out of Moss Point, East Central, Poplarville, Pass Christian and St. Stanislaus, three (PHS, ECHS and SSC) will advance to the second round.
After that, things get interesting.
East Central and West Lauderdale should clash in Round 3, as will Poplarville and St. Stanislaus in what could potentially be one of the best games of the postseason. SSC clips the Hornets to set up a rematch against East Central. The last time the two teams tangoed in Bay St. Louis, the Rockachaws capitalized on three turnovers. This time around, the game comes down to the final five minutes, with LSU commit Myles Brennan sending SSC back to the 4A championship for the third straight year.
This time around, however, the Rockachaws will get it done. Noxubee County isn't the same team without Jeffery Simmons. As such, the Tigers will be eliminated in North State by Lafayette setting up a rematch of the 2009 finals.
Last time around, the state's most prolific passer (to date) got the best of the Commodores. The same thing will happen Dec. 3 at 3 p.m. with the Rockachaws finally earning the elusive golden ball.